Over long time, people have been having problems in communicating effectively with people from other communities/countries that they happen not to use a common language. A lot of money has been spent looking for translators who act as savior between the two or more groups that don’t understand one another in terms of communication. To overcome these challenges, some individuals/countries have been able to learn other countries/communities language, and translate it to others and in most cases at a fee. Bilingual has many advantages both to individual and country at large as it will be seen in the discussion below.
Bilingualism refers to the ability to use two languages with equal or almost equal fluency. Bilingualism can simply also be defined as using two languages on a regular basis. As noted by Richard (1980), the concept of bilingualism came into play around 1960 where the objective was to liberalize the attitude of the community towards non-English speaking people as well as preserving the culture. It got vast support from Hispanics Americans with initial objective of making sure their children could communicate in their mother tongue as well as in English. There is an ongoing controversy about the question whether it is advantageous or disadvantageous being bilingual. Some people like Mujica as purported by Susan (2003) digs deeper as to why U.S should adopt English as a national language a stand that is challenged by Spanish speaking regions. Judd goes further to reinforce the importance of bilingual and in his write up challenges America when they wanted to make English their national language. This move was seen as a measure to curtail other immigrants from iffrent countries that could not be able to use their language. Though some authors have claimed bilingual and multilingual could lead to animosity between the communities, data has shown that some countries have many tribes and still co-exist peacefully. However studies conducted on this area show positive effects of bilingualism. The results indicate that bilinguals can perform better on intellectual reasoning tests than monolinguals. Bilingualism is extremely widespread and is the norm in today’s world (and not the exception).
To some extent these results seem to indicate that the linguistic and cultural experience of the Bilinguals is an advantage. The evidence seems to demonstrate the significance of social interaction and social environment as ingredients of experience. Intelligence factors necessary for concept formation tend to be developed to a greater extent in the bilingual subjects (Ibid). If bilingualism boosts intellectual capacity and is beneficial to concept development then a second language should be pioneered at the early years when knowledge and environmental factors are most effectual in contributing to the development of intelligence. This study seems to indicate that becoming bilingual speeds up the normal process of some parts of mental development (Saunders, 1998).
There are several merits of bilingualism as suggested by G. Saunders (1988) earlier and greater awareness of the arbitrariness of language is one of them. The continual change between two languages can lead to increased sensitivity in conversations or generally in communication. By no means all bilinguals are good translators. There are many other skills involved, and bilinguals, just like monolinguals, are too different to allow for easy generalizations. There is one important exception however the sign language interpreters often observed on television or at public events are most often hearing children of Deaf parents, who grew up bilingual (Fabbro,2001).
Bilingualism brings new opportunities to the individual as well as the society. Bilingual individuals, ownership of two languages are increasing seen as an asset as the communication world gets smaller day by day. With the vast amount of information available, and the ease of distributing it to the global village, bilinguals have become more important in the employment market. It is a fact that bilinguals are highly useful in the extremely competitive international trade as well as other global functions. As a result many bilinguals are now working in professions perceived to be prestigious such as transnational business corporations, governments, tourism and journalism. Bilingualism also brings different opportunities not only to the society but generally to the whole society. In the global world, the economic strength of a nation in the global market is not associated with the number of bilinguals it may have but how many bilinguals it has. The larger the number of bilinguals a country produces, the greater the competitiveness in educational standards, economic and cultural vibrancy of that particular country (Haugen, 1974).
Bilingual individual’s offer the society a bridge building potential, bridging between different groups within a country and also bridges cross fertilization among cultures. Smaller countries like Singapore have been given economic and cultural vitality by bilingualism. It also enhances the society to review about diversity and unity which translates to peaceful coexistence among different cultural and linguistic groups and to observe and respect the rights of one another. Bilingualism also indicates that tolerance and cohesiveness between different groups is only possible when linguistic diversity is encouraged and promoted. During World War II, Chinese used to be given badges to distinguish them from Japanese. The important thing is when they used English, they bridged the barrier that existed before and realized they shared a lot in common. It therefore true to say bilingualism can be used to meld people from different communities/countries. (English language, Hayakawa) It has therefore been realized that bilingualism is the norm for the person and society in general (Haugen, 1974).
Bilingual individuals may have specific advantages in reasoning. For example they have two or more words for each idea or object; this develops a creative thinking and an ability to think more flexibly in comparison to monolinguals. They are also more sensitive and considerate to the needs of a particular listener than monolingual people. They as well posses a positive effect on intellectual growth since bilingualism enhances and enriches an individual’s mental development. Recent research has evidenced that bilinguals are better at intelligent quotient tests as compared to the monolinguals. This then means importance attached to it is of great value to the individual as well as the country at the long- run. In terms of socialization, bilingual individuals are considered to be better placed in bridging the gap with the other communities. In other words, they can socialize and interact more easily since language will not act as a barrier to them as opposed to monolinguals ( Ibid).
These individuals tend to have an increased sense of self esteem as they are able to switch between different languages and consequently talk to different people in various languages. This creates a strong link in different individuals and countries. Bilinguals have an advantage in that they can understand and appreciate literature in various languages. Being able to speak in more than one language for sure places one at advantaged position even in academics. A good example is Kenya where its citizens use two official languages which are English and Kiswahili. This has made the country export most of its expatriates to the neighboring countries either as teachers or other professionals thus creating employment to many of them (Grosjean, 1996).
In some parts of African continent, where citizens of the country have almost the same skin color, and more so where the country is mostly involved in internal conflicts, bilingual have benefitted from it since they can communicate efficiently and fluently with the attacking community. This there fore implies during such circumstances, being bilingual can be a savior to your life, leave alone your belongings which normally get destroyed e.g through arson at such moments of tribal clashes (Rotte,2002).
<>In conclusion, when people go to another country and learn the new language, it becomes better and easier for them to adapt to the new system and their new life. These people can have more opportunities in several areas like personal, work environment as well as family. There are many advantages of being bilingual. It can get one many places in life and could help someone in times of need. Moreover, knowledge or the ability to learn other languages increases the career opportunities, offering several job options. In general it extends individuals social and professional limits. It is therefore imperative to promote bilingualism as an asset and not a defect or to uphold the appreciation and recognition of such non formal competencies as bilingualism, but that is not all. Language is intimately related to culture. Our history, customs, traditions and beliefs are expressed and transferred through our use of language. In a nut shell, current evidence indicates that to the bilingual capacity of the human mind and refutes earlier misconceptions which viewed bilingualism and bilingual acquisition as burdensome and a hindrance to development.